While service dogs have always been welcome on public transit, the friendly rails have recently opened up to companion pets as well. In 2014, Amtrak, for example, began testing doggie-travel programs in the Midwest. After promising results, the railroad corporation has rolled out its program to other routes.
These pilot programs may well lead to more widespread national programs on other trains in the future and, in case they do, it's wise to be prepared to travel with your canine companion in style. Here are some general rules for dogs on public transit today:
Dogs on Subways and Trains
Amtrak allows a maximum of four pets (dogs and cats combined) per train, and places are reserved on a first-come, first-serve basis. The guidelines for pet passengers are as follows:
- Only pets weighing 20 pounds or less are allowed.
- A human passenger may only be accompanied by one pet.
- Amtrak charges $25 per pet per trip.
- Pets may only travel in Coach Class and are prohibited from other accommodations or food service cars. Some routes may designate a specific Coach car for pets.
Currently, small dogs can ride the NYC subway or the Bay Area Transit (BART) with their handlers. These dogs don't just get to hop on and go, though, and there are some rules pet parents need to be aware of.
- According to the New York Times, dogs on NYC public transportation must be placed in a pet-safe carrier and be on a handler's lap or on the floor by the handler's feet. The carrier is not allowed to take up an additional seat or space on the floor that could be used as standing room.
- Dogs on San Francisco's BART must be secured in pet-safe carriers. The only pets allowed on leashes or harnesses are service dogs.
Dogs on Busses
While you can't take your Greyhound on a Greyhound (for now, anyway), local busses or transit lines are beginning to warm up to the idea of canine travel. The following general rules apply to most bus lines, although it's always wise to look up the transit rules in your city to be sure.
- Dogs are not required to be contained in a carrier, but must be placed on a leash.
- Dogs are not allowed to take up a seat and must sit on the floor or in a handler's lap.
- Dogs that can be transported in a handler's lap (small-breed dogs) often get free bus fare, while larger-breed dogs often require a ticket fee.
Traveling with Your Dog
If you've decided to take your pup on public transit, follow these tips to make the experience safe and enjoyable for both of you.
- Focus on socialization. Riding a New York subway is overwhelming for even the most seasoned of human travelers, and it can easily become too much for a dog. For this reason, it's important to socialize your dog adequately before you attempt to take him or her on public transit. Expose the dog to strangers and new noises, smells, and sights in order to make sure the dog doesn't panic in a busy transit environment.
- Update immunizations. Having up-to-date vaccinations is important for dogs in public environments, so be sure to visit the vet for any needed shots before taking Fido on a bus or subway. Keep proof of vaccinations and needed health treatments with you at all times in case you are asked to show them.
- Get the needed equipment. While transit laws vary, you'll likely need a hard carrier, a leash, and a muzzle to travel safely with your dog. Get all of these things in advance to avoid last-minute dashes to the store.
- Offer a reward. Reward your dog with a favorite treat for behaving on their transit journey.
While traveling with your dog may be uncharted territory, these public transit tips can help ensure a smooth ride for you and your canine companion.